1. Critically analyse the text, context and essence of the Nigerian Traditional poetry?
The text of the Nigerian Traditional poetry is anchored on the general fact that poetry has always been an integral part of the society. Hence, Nigeria did not hear of poetry for the first time from the colonial masters. Poetry is therefore not an alien culture to the traditional Nigerian society. On this regard, Chuma-udeh (2007:1) observed;
“Ordinarily, poetry is seen and portrayed in every aspect of life and every activity of the Nigerian society. Every interaction is submerged in poetry and every activity is laced with poetry. It is manifested in the slightest day-to-day interactions of members of the society”.
The context is in connection that Nigerian traditional poetry encourages all forms of public recitals and renditions in forms of songs, chants and narration. There are also traditional folk songs which are enacted in form of folk dances. It would not be wrong to assert that of the three genres of literature – drama, poetry and prose, poetry is the oldest in the world in general and Nigeria in particular. Be that as it may, the Yoruba has used ‘Ewi’ as festive songs for wedding, the Bridal poetry “Ekun Iyawo” & “Rara Iyawoo is used to send off a bride from her parents as well as receive her in her marital home”. “Ija is a hunter’s chant while ‘Oriki’ is a praise tradition for distinguished personalities, noble ancestor and lineages. “Iwi Egungun” is a masquerade chants. Because life in the Nigerian society is a celebration, poems for celebration are the most popular. It is often called panegyric or praise poetry.
In terms of essence, the Nigerian traditional poetry is an avenue through which morals and societal etiquettes are imbued to the younger generation. Old ages relay ancient wisdom to the new generation through poetry.
Traditional poetry is simply the societal medium of emphasizing and re-echoing the nature of relationships between man and his environment, man and his fellow man and between man and his ancestors. It is a tool for entertainment – satisfies man’s intellect and emotions.
It is used for soul lifting lyric at the birth of the baby, in nursing the baby and during death, elegies and dirges are song to relieve the sorrowful experience.
The poem shows a close affinity between man, the deities and his ancestors. It establishes a link between the spiritual and the physical, the living and the dead. Excerpt from “Ofo” an Igbo traditional poetry read;
“my God and ancestors”
I thank you
For letting me see this day,
May I continue to see more;
Till my hair becomes white;
May the hoe never cut my feet;
Protect me and my household……
The traditional Nigerian poetry is also used to emphasize the close affinity and the utmost reverence the society has with their gods. Little Obatunde Ijemere venerates the Yoruba god of Iron and thunder Ogun:
“Ogun is not like pounded yam”,
Do you think you can knead him in your hand?
And eat of him until you are satisfied?
In the main, after colonial experience, the birth of modern poetry made Nigerian poets to be estranged from his people. his language became alien, poetry sized to be a communal affair but a personal way of expression. He still remain a checkmate of the society. He becomes a voice of his people, a revolutionist and came against colonialism and its influences on his peoples’ norms and tradition. He stands unshakable, drifting with the tide of even in Nigerian society – observing, recording and reprimanding. The development of modern poetry can be group into four phases;
– the pioneer phase
– the modernist/post independence phase
– the revolutionary or Marxist/ideological phase
2. Discuss obscurity in the works of Christopher Okigbo
Although Christopher Okigbo is one Nigerian poet who will forever remain in the mind of posterity. His poems have been viewed as an embodiment of “the poetics of obscurity”. Looking at “the passage” an excerpt from Okigbo’s poem which laments his estrangement from his traditional roots thus;
BEFORE YOU, Mother Idoto
Naked I stand
Before your watery presence,
A prodigal
Learning on an oil bean
Lost in your legend
Here, the persona had been polluted by his interactions with alien cultures and he goes back to his root like the Biblical prodigal son craving for renewment. He repentantly pleads for acceptance. There is a jumbled mixture of materials from Christian religion and those of the elemental Igbo tradition. The merging helped to create obscurity.
The root of his obscurity in his work would be traced to three factors;
(1) He borrowed heavily from Blakels style of alienation which made him source and manipulate effectively material alien to his immediate environment.
(2) The poet employed the deviation technique which made him move away from popular beliefs and ideals. Though the deviation technique he was able to manufacture his own concepts which were peculiar and individual to him.
(3) Thirdly, in the fashion of W.B. Yeast, he dabbled into the cultural belief of his people of list and resuscitate totems and archaic concepts which were almost forgotten by his community.
The above three stages came together to enhance the obscurity in his work thereby alienating him from his readers. According to Chuma-udeh (2007:24);
“This alienation was however in international strategy which the poet employed in order to perpetually puzzle his readers into the futility of continually seeking to decipher relationship and social conventions in his poems. The rift created between him and his audience became for him a real master stroke”.
The readers mind is perpetually at a loss due to the jumbled use of image and symbols. This symbolist learning can be deciphered in “the lament of the silent sisters” where he tows the line of Elliot’s epigraph to Mallard Herodiac”
Cries: THERE ……is certainly there……
For as in sea-fever globules of fresh anguish
Immense golden eggs enity of albumen
Sink into our balcony…..
Yet another technique of the poet is the ………. Of the dream state; which most often indicated the poets departure from reality into arts.
Another basic stype of Okigbo’s poetry is the abundant and irrepressible use of metaphor. The poet’s metaphor makes his words assume different meaning from their conventional everyday use. In “The Lament of the Drum”, the poet demonstrates mastery over metamorphical expression thus;
“Lion-Hearted cedar forest, gonads for our thunder
Even if you are very far away, we invoke you”
Give us our hollow heads of long drums…..
Okigbo is an obscurist, developing high mastery of language for himself and his poem and therefore alienating his readers.
3. Trace the themes of societal inequality in Ezenwa Ohaeto’s “The Messiah Don Come” Tanure Ojaide’s “Ugheli” and Wole Soyinka’s “Telephone Conversation”
The themes of societal inequality in Ezenwa Ohaeto’s “The Messiah Done Come”
Before delving into the various themes, it is pertinent to remark that this is “The ideological stage” in the development of Nigerian poetry. The emergence of common man’s poetry for the fate of the common man who wastes away in the face of so much injustice, corruption, oppressive and dictatorial leadership. The themes however are:-
1. Theme of corruption: The poems traces the history of corruption in the Nigerian nation. It captured from the life of the poem when the poet said
“Dem taken government quarters”
Dem capture senior service salary
Dem don begin shout
Make una jump
Messiah don come.
It depicts leaders who embezzle government money for their selfish interest.
2. Theme of Disunity: Each ethnic nationalities in Nigeria were not united as the poet stated;
Quarrel just start
North wan chop national cake
West wan chop national cake
3. Bad Leadership: the leaders are not delivering good governance. The roads were not good and so on. The poet lament;
“Good road dem no fit build
Technology dem no sabi make
Even ordinary water dem no fit give”
2. Theme of Poverty: Hunger engulfed the nations and so people started to die. Crisis began and the nation was in severe civil unrest thus;
“People begin de die”
Dem begin burn house
Dem start destroy motor
Dem begin dey kill
Dem begin to destroy
3. Theme of War: It take into account the Nigerian civil war. The 30 months war and the great war ease that followed it.
Be that as it, the themes in Tanue Ojaide’s “Ugheli” are;
1. Exploitation: Oil mongers destroyed the land and natural resources of a people and leaves them with nothing. The first line of the poem reads;
“To see her dry skinned when her oil rejuvenate hags”
To leave her in darkness when her full lights the universe.
2. Pity: the poets descriptive language send signs, pity and sorrow to the readers. It means the land and human conscience easily avail to sympathy the people.
As a point of departure, below are them from Wole Soyinka’s Telephone Conversation;
1. Racism: the poet did not spare anybody but insistedly ridiculed the colour differentiation between the white and the blacks.
2. Segregation: the racism is accompanied by social discrimination.
3. Humiliation and frustration: both themes is highly concomitant. Soyinka was cut in the web of both in the poem as he looks for accommodation in England.
Excerpt from the poem writes;
“The price seemed reasonable, location indifferent, the landlady swore she lived off premises. Nothing remain but self confession”
The racism, segregation, humiliation and frustration in the poem was depicted in another line thus;
“Are you Dark? Or very light?”
Revelation come
However, the play on color makes the humor astute and the message well delivered (Chuma-udeh, 2007:65).






1. Critical analyzes the following assertions


a. The Nigerian traditional poetry is a communal affair
b. The Nigerian traditional poetry is composed cext-empore
c. The Nigeria traditional poetry has great utility
d. The sole of the bard is elemental in the Nigerian traditional poetic renditions
e. The modern Nigerian poetry is a child of two worlds
This is the most distinguished aspect of the Nigerian traditional poetry, it means that there is no aspect of the Nigerian communal life that poetry does not surface. In nursing the baby, lullabies are sung and chanted to sooth the baby to sleep. At death of a member of the society, elegies and dirges are sung to relieve the sorrowful experience. These mournful chanted may involve wailing, weeping sobbing and serious gnash of the teeth. In Nigeria poetry has always been an integral part of the society. According to Chuma-Udeh (2007:1)
“Ordinarily, Poetry is seen and
Portrayed in every aspect of life
and every activity of the Nigerian society.
Every interaction is submerged in poetry
and every activity is laced with poetry.
It is manifested in the slightest day-today
interactions of members of the society.
It means that the Nigerian traditional poetry was carried out with out careful preparation but was guided only by imagination, instinct and guesswork rather than by careful plan. It was basically oral, encompasses all forms of songs, chants or narration. There are traditional folk songs enacted in forms of folk dances which stems from myth or legend presented in festive occasions for entertainment.
THE UTILITY OF NIGERIAN TRADITIONAL POETRY is but not limited to avenue through which morals and societal etiquettes are imbued to the younger generation. Old ages relay ancient wisdom to the younger generation through poetry. Religious beliefs and didactics are also spread and fostered through traditional poetry.
It is a tool for entertainment and it enlightens and re-echoing the nature of relationships between man and his environment, man and his fellow man and his ancestors.
THE ROLE OF THE BARD IS ELEMENTAL IN THE NIGERIA TRADITIONAL POETIC RENDITION because the local bard use poetry to playfully and tactfully checkmate the society. One aspect of the Nigerian traditional poetry is that it can be composed with out much formality. The local bards and some obnoxious brats make use of this quality to extremities. In so far as poetry is a means of promoting cordiality, culturality and peaceful co-existence between people of the same culture, Chuma Uden (2007:3) opined that:
“In Nigerian traditional society,
It is not uncommon to see local
bards entertaining mixed audience
of old and young, men and women,
boys and girls with poems of love,
war, heroic deeds, history, epics, legends and myth.
Through this type of rendering, the history of the society is perpetuated and preserved.
The first word is that Nigerian traditional poetry indigenous to Nigeria expressed orally and extempore whereas the other world represent the poetry that came up during colonization. Summing it up into one, it depicts the collective experience of the Nigerian traditional society-the totality of the community way of life and expression. The pant is that during colonialism, Christianity brought as its other arm, education that enabled the Nigerian to learn to read and write in the colonial master’s language. Learning began with the bible and graduated to poetry. It brought changes in the traditional poetry, found new local bards and submerge proverb in writing poetry though English language become a medium for expression.




Ngozi Chuma-Udeh’s “chants of despair” is a poetry rooted deeply in the nations body polity. This depicts the essential, the underpinning upon which the rest of the book is built. Ironically, the book is dedicated to the people at the helms of affair in the country, ‘for their information and necessary actions (Chuma-Udeh, 2007:119).
Essentially, the poem is a comparative analysis of the two classes in the society through the eyes of a poverty stricken soul.
A clear picture presented is one class of people whose conditions are seen through “Despair” a name determined right from birth. A class of poverty stricken citizen. From birth, despair has known the meaning of poverty since he came into the world beside a putrid gutter with mosquitoes and maggot as the attending midwives and doctors on duty as he was born beside the putrid, stinking gutter, behind a rat infested, rickety shanty.
Another class is presented at the same time when another woman in the near bourgeoisie neighborhood also gave birth to a baby girl amidst the ‘either’ scented hands of the nurses and the doctors in a hospital. Hence, while another woman was whamming into the ears of doctors and nurses on duty, another is shrieking her labour pains beside a gulter.
The person explains why the name despair is a child of fate. Hence:
I was named Despair!!
A name determined
Even before my conception
By no other law than the
Law of fate,
Fate that tussles a human
Being like a doll at the hands
Of a rascally, over pampered
Bourgeoisie child,
Be that as it may, Chuma-Udeh sees poetry as a tool for X-raying the pressing contemporary issues in the country, for her, poetry one of the best ways that people have to bring the secular into language. She combines truth and precision in a wonderful analysis of life.
In “A song for Ajegunle” Niyi Osundare advocates for an effective bridging of the gab between the rich and the poor. The poet therefore confronted social inequality and class opportunity in rather concise manner. He describes the glaring abundance of the capitalist residential area of Ikoyi and contracts it with the stinking Ghetto of Ajegunle where the proletarian dwells in abject and want.
Ikoyi is exclusively for the ultra rich while the slum of Ajegunle is the abode of the thieves, rogues who live without electricity and water. The comparison drawn in the line of the poem thus,
And shoes hordes drifting
Drifting dreamily to Ikoyi chores
Or Victoria own Island where lawns
Are green with sweat”
Chuma-Udeh (2007:101) opined thus,
Osundare’s poetry is a device
Into the political and social
Situation in in the society, poetry
For him is an extensive polemic
Art whichshould be directed at
Revolutionalizing and sanitizing the society.

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